1199 — King Richard I of England dies

Richard I of England is one of its most legendary kings – better known in those legends as either “Richard the Lionheart”, and “Richard Coeur de Lion” – but probably also one of its worst. Of his ten year reign, he spent about six months (and none at all of his last five years) in England. He also spoke no English, despite being born there. He spent most of his reign fighting in the Crusades, and most of the remainder in his assorted French domains.

His death was from a gangrenous wound taken while trying to put down a rebellion in France. He left behind no direct heir, leading to England and France each being ruled by different claimants – his brother John in England (yes, THAT King John) and his nephew (via his other brother Geoffrey) Arthur in France. His legacy was one of warfare and loss, as neither claimant could conquer the entire territory that Richard has inherited.

Referenced in:

Kings — Steely Dan

1909 — Matthew Henson becomes the first explorer to reach the North Pole

The most trusted of Robert Peary’s fellow polar explorers, Henson was a member of Peary’s party when they became the first people to reach the geographic North Pole. Henson was the very first – they actually overshot the target on their first attempt, but upon doubling back later that day, they could see from Henson’s footprints that he had been the first to arrive at their destination.

Henson was also the man who planted the flag of the USA at the Pole – and the polar expedition was but one of six similar expeditions that he and Peary embarked upon over the course of about 18 years. Henson was later honoured by being inducted into the Explorer’s Club in 1937, the first negro ever to join the club. Henson’s remains are interred in a place of honour in Arlington National Cemetery.

Referenced in:

Black Man — Stevie Wonder

1936 — “Flash Gordon” premieres

Originating from a 1934 comic strip appearing in publications of the King Features Syndicate, Flash Gordon was one of Buck Rogers’ earliest competitors, and far and away his most successful. Flash Gordon was a blonde American hero who, with his love interest Dale Arden and scientist companion Dr Hans Zarkov, is transported to the planet Mongo. Here, Gordon comes into conflict with the dictator, Ming the Merciless, and encounters Ming’s many client states, slowly uniting them into a force that can overthrow the despot.

In 1936, Flash Gordon first his the silver screen. Episode one of a thirteen part serial premiered on April 6, starring Buster Crabbe as the title character. Since that time, there have been numerous sequels and revivals of the character, most notably the 1980 feature film of the same title that attempted to cash in on the popularity of Star Wars.

Referenced in:
Science Fiction Double Feature — Rocky Horror Picture Show original cast